Americans still suffering negative effects of pandemic

(ORDO NEWS) — One year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we found that more than one in five US adults reported probable depression in both spring 2020 and spring 2021. We also found that financial assets helped reduce the duration of symptoms – but only up to a point.

Our recently published study highlights the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of the US population.

In March 2020, we launched a national survey to measure mental health and assets. COVID-19 was a national emergency as the number of deaths rose. Schools, workplaces and government offices were closed as Americans were urged to stay at home.

At that time, we found that 27.8 percent of US adults in our study reported symptoms of depression, such as loss of interest in activities, feeling down or hopeless. That number was more than three times the pre-pandemic national depression rate of 8.5 percent.

What struck us most was that a year after the start of the pandemic, depression rates remained high, despite encouraging signs of declining infections and deaths.

In April 2021, people were lining up for a COVID-19 vaccine, doctors were finding better treatments for COVID-19, and efforts were being made to rebuild society. But by this point, the percentage of adults in our survey reporting symptoms of depression had risen to 32.8 percent.

Even worse, that higher 2021 number included 20.3 percent who reported symptoms of depression in both April 2020 and April 2021. This finding suggests that ill-health caused by the pandemic was widespread and persistent.

We also wanted to know what assets – financial, physical and social – may have affected people’s mental health during the pandemic.

In our first survey, we found that people who entered the pandemic with relatively few assets – especially financial assets – were more exposed to the stresses of COVID-19.

In a follow-up survey conducted in April 2021, we were interested in the relationship between mental health and wealth.

We looked at financial assets such as personal savings, physical assets such as owning a home, and social assets such as education and marital status. We compared people who were similar in terms of marriage, education, and home ownership.

We found that people from households earning less than $20,000 a year were 3.5 times more likely to report persistent symptoms of depression than people earning $75,000.

We also found that people who had $5,000 or more in savings or a bank account were less likely to report persistent depression.

However, having more assets has not lessened the depressing stress associated with job loss, relationship problems, or financial hardship during the pandemic.

Why is it important

Nearly 1 million lives have been claimed in the US by the COVID-19 pandemic and there have been nearly 5 million hospitalizations.

But the assessment of the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the nation is just beginning. And we believe the pandemic’s sustained impact on the nation’s mental health is unprecedented.

What’s next

Our next step will be to further explore the areas where those who started the pandemic with less assets and those who suffered job loss, relationship problems or financial hardship during the pandemic intersect.

People who have less possessions are most at risk of depression, especially depression that lasts for a long time, accompanied by social upheaval.

Property can act as an airbag, but even property has not protected people from the harmful effects of the stressors caused by the pandemic.

Our research shows that while the pandemic appears to be waning, Americans are still suffering. And, perhaps, they will feel the negative consequences for their mental health for a long time to come.

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